The changing leaf colors and the drop in temperature are indicators of the arrival of my favorite season: fall. What is also a clear indicator of the changing seasons is the changing flavors in many restaurants, coffee shops, and home kitchens. The one flavor that is unmistakenly related to sweater weather, colored leaves, and Thanksgiving is pumpkin spice. You can find it in the popular Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL), grandma's famous pumpkin pie, and even other recipes like granola, scones, or even overnight oats. When and where did the pumpkin spice craze begin?

The Great Pumpkin

According to this Time article, pumpkin was actually a "last resort" food, as it grew in abundant amounts and was often used as a substitute for wheat or yeast. "Pumpkin eater" was actually used as an insult! However, towards the mid-19th century, there was a newfound longing for the past, and pumpkins began to be romanticized in poetry and new recipes.

Grandma's Pumpkin Pie

pumpkin, sweet
Jocelyn Hsu

Have you heard the poem that starts with "over the river and through the wood?" The poem, "Thanksgiving Day," written by Lydia Marie Child, describes going to Grandma's house for Thanksgiving to eat, you guessed it, pumpkin pie. The first recorded pumpkin pies were made by the early American colonists, who, according to this article, cut the top off, scooped out the insides, and mixed in honey, milk, and spices. 

Can't Forget the Pumpkin Spice Latte

cream, mocha, milk, espresso, cappuccino, coffee
Alex Frank

The Pumpkin Spice Latte, aka PSL, has skyrocketed in popularty since its creation in 2003. After having created other seasonal drinks such as the Eggnong Latte and the Peppermint Mocha, the Starbucks team was seeking a new flavor. They experimented by alternating bites of pumpkin pie and sips of espresso, and from there a fall staple was born. Now, PSLs are so popular that during fall Starbucks fans use the hashtag #PSL at least 3,000 times a day!

Everything In Between

Thanks to the popularity of the Pumpkin Spice Latte and the heritage of the pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice has quickly infused itself into other recipes and products. You can make pumpkin spice granola and cakes, and you can buy pumpkin spice doughnuts and...wait for it...potato chips. Pumpkin spice has even made its way into bath and body products, candles, and pet shampoo. From the ordinary to the unordinary, pumpkin spice has it covered. 

The phenomenon of pumpkin spice is intruiging due to its massive popularity during fall. This massive trend started from humble beginnings in colonial America and grew to be a Thanksgiving classic, caffeine craze, and so much more. Once you see signs advertising for the Pumpkin Spice Latte, get your sweaters ready- it's officially fall according to consumer culture!